The Indianapolis Colts meet the New England Patriots today in a match-up that is far more relevant than anyone thought when the season began.
Both teams stand at 6-3. That’s a good thing for the Colts, a team that many thought would struggle to win one or to games. It may not be that great of a thing for the Patriots, who struggled early on in the season, but have recently ratcheted things up.
Though the match-up lacks the luster of the previous decade, featuring two first-ballot Hall of Fame, MVP, Super Bowl winning quarterbacks in Tom Brady and former Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, there is still a good story to uncover here. Granted, we all know about the Colts marching on without their rookie head coach Chuck Pagano who is still undergoing treatment for cancer. We know about Interim coach Bruce Arians amazing job to this point with the team. And we know about the Colts’ record despite being loaded with rookies and cast-offs.
Above all of that, on this Sunday though, will not be Brady-Manning, but Luck-Brady. The old guard versus the up-and-comer.Indianapolis’ David (albeit a highly talented, well-paid David) versusNew England’s Goliath.New England’s high-powered, Oregonian offense versus a very injured and depleted Colts defense. On the surface, things don’t look too good for the Colts or for Luck. On the road, like in this game, Luck has struggled. In the 4 road games this year, he has thrown only two touchdowns and 7 interceptions (though in he also rushed for two scores againstJacksonville). If the Colts are going to have any shot today, Luck needs to score, and through the air. If he’s running, it’s because they have fallen behind, and once that happens, there’s almost no shot the Colts will be able to outgun the Pats.
The one Achilles’ heel is that the Pats pass defense – statistically speaking, anyhow – is worse than that of the Colts. Through the air, the Pats are allowing 285.3 yards per game (29th in the NFL) and have given up 29 passing touch downs (T-28th). So expect a heavy dose of Luck, Wayne, Allen, and whoever else early and often. If they can have early success in the pass game, maybe Vick Ballard and Donald Brown can start making things happen on the ground. If that happens, there’s a punchers chance for the Colts.
3 Things to Watch
Andrew Luck – Going head to head (metaphorically speaking) with the man who is the source of so many Colts’ fans agonies is going to be a tough thing for the rookie, no matter how well overall he has played to this point. In this game Luck needs to bring the absolute A-game, making smart decisions and not forcing things. The game plan has to be to take what the Patriots defense will give Luck, and based on past performances, that should be quite a lot. But when they get into the end zone, they need to get touchdowns, not field goals, and that responsibility will fall squarely on the shoulders of Luck.
Colts defense vs. Patriots offense – Cornerback Vontae Davis is out for this game. Cornerback Jerraud Powers and nose tackle Drake Nevis are the latest Colts defenders to hit it IR list. Those three represent a microcosm of this season. It’s been a series of unfortunate events on the defensive side of the ball. Despite all those injuries, they only rank 17th in yards allowed, and 15th in points per game given up. But that’s been against the likes ofCleveland,Jacksonville,Minnesota, andTennessee. The Patriots are a whole other league. There are match-up issues galore with Welker (who is playing today), Gronkowski, and the running talents of Stevan Ridley and Danny Woodhead. Oh, and some dude named Brady.
Josh Chapman – The rookie nose tackle fromAlabama gets his first chance to play this week after sitting out the first 9 games recovering from an ACL injury suffered in his senior season last year. Regardless of how many snaps he actually plays or whether he has any impact whatsoever, it’s another shining moment in a surprising and fun Colts season so far.
My 5 Predictions
Luck – I’d like to paint a prettier picture, but generally speaking past performance dictates future returns, and Luck’s past road performances has pretty much sucked. He’ still going to put up some numbers, going 20-44 for 335 yards, and a touchdown, but will also throw two costly interceptions.
Ballard and Brown – The Patriots are 8th best in the league, giving up 96.8 yards per game on the ground. Though I haven’t had the occasion to watch any Patriots games (nor would I even if I had to occasion, old habits and all that), I would venture a guess that this ranking is based more on the fact that teams have to throw a lot against New England due to falling behind quickly than it is a real stout defensive front. But I could be wrong. Either way, I don’t see a big day for either of the Colts running backs. Neither cracks the 50 yard mark, and there are no touchdowns to be had.
Reggie Wayne – Of all the Colts, Wayne is the most likely to have a big game this week. Why? Because he’s had a big game every week this year. Add in the fact that he’s Luck’s favorite target and the fact that the Colts will likely be throwing the ball down the field most of the game, and you’ve got yourself a 10-catch, 100 yard, 1 touchdown game.
Tom Brady – Well, speaking of big games… Against the battered Colts defense, it’s hard not to see this coming. If you’ve got Brady on your fantasy team, he’s a definite starter. Brady gets 425 yards and three scores.
Final Score – The Colts will put up a valiant fight, but will ultimately fall, and fall pretty hard.New England wins it, 38-13.
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